Hydrotherapy for Dogs

As of late, hydrotherapy for dogs has become rather trendy for a variety of reasons. 

“In the most general terms, hydrotherapy is exercise in an aquatic environment [that is] used to achieve functional goals in rehabilitation,” explained Dr. Molly Flaherty, DVM, to PetMD in 2019. 

She went on to say that she “would recommend this type of therapy if any type of weight-bearing is painful for the dog.”

This specific form of physical therapy may be suggested by your veterinarian if your dog just had surgery, is overweight, is partially paralyzed, has hip dysplasia, and/or is suffering from canine arthritis.  It is recommended for dog owners to take their furry friends to a rehabilitation center with certified hydrotherapists. Also, dogs who are prone to chronic ear infections, should not seek out hydrotherapy, as there is a great risk of the inside of your dog’s ears getting wet. 

The most popular type of hydrotherapy for dogs is to walk on an underwater treadmill that had been submerged in a tank while they are connected to a harness. 

“Underwater treadmill offers better ‘on-demand’ control of an exercise program and allows modifications to be made more specific,” noted certified canine rehabilitation practitioner Dr. Tari Kern, DVM in a March 2020 interview with the American Kennel Club. “The depth of the water and speed of the treadmill can be quickly adjusted to provide different experiences for the pet. This allows the effects of the exercise to be tailored more specifically to the overall goal of hydrotherapy and each pet’s unique needs and possible limitations.”

Simply having your dog swim in a pool accompanied by a certified hydrotherapist can also have a myriad of benefits. 

That being said, canine hydrotherapy is not a guaranteed cure for your pup’s ailments. 

“Water-based exercises can help to rebuild muscle mass, promote cardiovascular output and improve stamina. However, it cannot target specific individual muscles for strengthening or reducing local inflammation or pain. The best rehabilitation plan should be individualized for each pet and incorporate a combination of modalities that best help to address all of the problems that need to be corrected,” asserted Dr. Kern. 

While there is not a set cost for hydrotherapy sessions, typically a half-hour will run you about $30 to $50. 

image courtesy of Valley of the Vets

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